Despite roof damage from Jacksboro tornado, Mass and programs will continue at St. Mary Parish
JACKSBORO — A powerful tornado with winds of up to 150 mph that ripped through Jacksboro Monday afternoon left major damage to nearly 90 homes, severely damaged two schools, and peeled some roof shingles off St. Mary Catholic Church.
Nobody was at the church when the tornado struck shortly after 3 p.m. St. Mary is part of the tri-parish community of Jack and Wise Counties in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
The church’s pastor, Father Reehan Antony, SAC, said Mass will go on as scheduled and none of the church’s programs will be affected.
“It will not affect any of the programs because it’s only some of the shingles; a little portion on the church and a portion on the classroom sections are gone,” he said.
After the storm passed, the pastor said that he called a few parishioners who came to the church to help cover the damaged sections of shingles with tarps.
“We did see a few drops inside that building because the shingles were not there on top.” Fr. Antony said. “Not major, but a few spots here and there.”
Fr. Antony said he waited to call parishioners until after the dangerous storm had passed.
“I didn’t want them to drive during the time of the tornado warning,” he said. “After that, a few parishioners went, and I went from Bridgeport to Jacksboro to see for myself what happened,” he said.
Teams with the National Weather Service surveyed damage in Jack County and other areas with storm damage on Tuesday and said the twister was an EF-3 level storm with winds of 140 to 150 mph. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations for Jack and 10 other counties in Texas.
Jack County officials said that four people were rescued from a damaged home but were not seriously injured. At least one official said he believed God was watching out for city residents during the storm.
“Let me just say this publicly, that I believe in God and God’s amazing grace was here at our community yesterday, through the situation and what we had facing us,” Frank Hefner, Jack County emergency management coordinator, said at a press conference Tuesday. “So far, we’ve seen no major injuries and no deaths with the devastation of what we’re seeing in our community and around our county. God’s hand was at work at keeping us protected.”
The tornado left behind significant damage at Jacksboro High School and Jacksboro Elementary School. Officials said the tornado hit Jacksboro Elementary School at the time when students were to be dismissed and the staff kept hundreds of students safe inside of the school building.
Jacksboro officials said that a debris field from the storm is at least two miles wide.
Fr. Antony is from India and belongs to the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, the Pallottine Fathers. He has been at the parish since July 2018. He is the spiritual leader of St. John the Baptizer in Bridgeport and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Decatur, in addition to St. Mary in Jacksboro.